Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) are charismatic aquatic insects that have been well-collected over time, making them good subjects for large-scale studies of changes in community composition and distribution. As a whole, odonates are more tolerant to pollution than the classic examples of sensitive aquatic insects, including Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera (EPT) taxa, but are still significantly less tolerant than other groups. Individual species have a wide range of environmental tolerances, and are good indicators of ecosystem health, particularly for wetlands. Odonata are also known to be highly responsive to ecosystem conditions in relation to broad-scale factors such as climate and urbanization.
Dragonflies may be particularly good indicators of biological effects of climate warming. Studies in Great Britain have demonstrated that the ranges of most non-migratory Odonata species have expanded, range boundaries have shifted northward, and first-flight days are occurring earlier as a result of climate warming since 1960. Many of these changes are occurring faster or are more pronounced than in other groups. For example, dragonflies in Britain have experienced range shifts averaging 88 kilometers (km) northward, compared to 53 km for butterflies. Their high dispersal ability may allow them to respond more quickly to climate warming.
I am interested in how Odonata species have responded to landscape alteration and climatic changes in California over time. Specifically, my research objectives are to:
1) determine how landscape, habitat, and collection event factors influence Odonata species detection and occupancy rates,
2) determine whether odonate community metrics, trait composition, and species occupancy rates have changed over the past 100 years; and
3) use species distribution models to estimate the amount of suitable habitat lost or gained in recent years by several focal taxa.